Wednesday, June 19, 2019


Rough thoughts on a new monster/cultist. Inspired by MORK BORG which is cool and very metal OSR.

FLOODBEARER 5 HD, 17 hp, Armor as Leather. A robed figure floats above the ground. Its bony, sallow skin can be seen, pocked with deep holes from which it pulls waxed scrolls, cracking them open and reading from them, bringing a conflagration of rain and flooding wherever they are. They wish to show humanity the folly of building and civilization. They are serenely unaffected by the storm they summon. If killed, their chest has 1d6 scrolls of Deluge left within. Spell: Deluge This spell summons a hellish storm, outdoors or in, aboveground or below. I haven't decided how this works indoors - if we skip straight to 2nd or 3rd casting in a dungeon, or if a house would just collapse, or if the ceiling seems to fade away. Above one can see a towering black maelstrom which flickers with red lightening. Anyone who tries to climb up out of a dungeon or building using this spell have travelled to the Plane of Storms. For a few more minutes the gateway will be open. Casting the spell is a cumulative act; a Floodbearer will attempt to cast this spell every round. The storm takes at least a turn to recede and affects a large area, ruining crops, buildings, and other flimsy machinations of humanity. 1st casting: Area is flooded up to your waist, driving stinging rain limits vision. It is more difficult (advantage/disadvantage?) to walk or run, and harder to shoot ranged weapons. (However, swimming is possible for less encumbered people.) 2nd casting: Flooding is up to one's shoulders. In addition to the above effects, melee fighting is harder above the waves. Currents begin to pull at people standing or swimming - languidly, despite the hell storm above the water. 3rd casting: Water rises to 7', everyone must sink or swim. Currents can pull the party apart or deposit them in a different location. Rolls to avoid damage from being slammed into walls or half-drowned are appropriate.

Now I need 'Encounters and Locations you find on the Plane of Storms.' In theory one could use these spells cast in several locations in the real world to 'teleport' in a dangerous and awesome way.

Friday, May 10, 2019



This only exists because of Bad Frog Bargain. Nate Treme is amazing!!!

IN MEDIA RES / Starting Out Right

  1. Face painting the Mayor and their guards
  2. Round 4, Caribou Lou drinking contest 
  3. William Tell Multi Demonstration, Circular Firing Squad
  4. Chased by cops over 'harmless prank'
  5. Inside a burning multi-outhouse
  6. At the tippy-top of a tree, swaying in the breeze


  1. Drunk Dog Gang. Knives, puffy pants, hosery, slingshots. Wants all the pies.
  2. Franklin Shipments. Clubs, overalls, straw hats, chaw. Picking up shipments of bent copper coins, shiny things.
  3. Mayor and retinue. Dapper moth-eaten wool suits, bowler hats weighted with stones to be good throwing weapons, razors sewn on the brim. Wants the Town Sash before midnight tomorrow night.
  4. A Swamp Witch. Wants the Town Sash and 12 Great Pies to summon a whirlwind.


  1. Treetop bridges and houses
  2. Treeroot Hollows 
  3. Old Mill
  4. Lumpy Meadow
  5. River jetty and dock
  6. Mayor's dome ceramic house
  7. Big fences horse pasture - boggy, full of giant turds
  8. Standoff Stump Hill
  9. Wolf's Kiss Inn and Mudbath
  10. Old Frog Bonnie's Shack and Moonshine still
  11. Thatched Schoolhouse
  12. Bakers' Treeforts
  13. Fairground


  1. Murder of 2d4 Drunk Dog Gangers who smell pie on you
  2. d4 Crow Cops chasing 2d4 pie thieves
  3. Mayor's top dogsbody crow, hunting for the Town Sash
  4. Flying monkey, glass cat. In bad disguises. Spies for the Witch
  5. Baker with a Great Pie, 2d4 Crow and Ghost guards.
  6. Pie Car (temporary edible vehicle) full of drunk crows careening at speed
  7. Huge Ghost, ragged body, enormous snowglobe head, looking for a tiny lost spell written inside a pie-shell
  8. Potionmonger with 1d6 potions left, heroically drunk
  9. Tree Haunt awakens and animates tree, needs a barrel of wine to go back to sleep, quite angry to be awake
  10. Crow coppers checking festival tickets, d4+1
  11. Fire jugglers having a bad mishap 
  12. Warbling time caws and paws the PCs forward. Day becomes night or vice-versa. Weather is now 1) Clear 2) Rainy 3) Snowy 4) Foggy
  13. The Witch, in a bad disguise as a Doctor with a green skin condition and evil laugh
  14. Hobo wearing Town Sash climbing up a tree, throws rocks at pursuers. Wants to sleep in a tree, smoke a pipe full of fresh dill
  15. Ballroom Dance Battle enfolds PCs, will take next 1d6 hours. Will generally not attack PCs but also cannot let them leave without some fight-dancing



  1. Toga
  2. Ascot and cloak
  3. Monocle-suit
  4. Aluminum foil pants
  5. Spats, suspenders
  6. Sundress
  7. Leather jacket
  8. Hoop skirt


  1. Pie
  2. Town Sash
  3. Revenge
  4. Magic
  5. More wine
  6. Spy for 1-2) Mayor 3-4) Gang 5-6) Franklin Shipments


  1. Drunk
  2. Cursed (infectious)
  3. Sleepwalking
  4. Judging a contest
  5. Jovular
  6. Suspicious

Random Pockets

  1. Worms and dirt
  2. Potion
  3. Silver folding jackknife
  4. Monogrammed hankerchief
  5. Bug Repellent Tonic, doubles as laudanum
  6. Town Sash treasure map (guesswork)
  7. 2d6 drink tickets
  8. 1d4 pie contest tickets
  9. Feather poppet (spell focus, 1 use)
  10. Wanted: Swamp Witch poster
  11. Spool of steel wire and snips
  12. Cold iron spike
  13. Slide whistle
  14. Tiny crystal animal in felt back
  15. Witch hazel, witches hate it
  16. Dancer's mask
  17. Waltz instruction manual
  18. Feather Wax
  19. Steel photograph of last year's Great Pies
  20. Duck call (illegal)


  1. Witches want our pies
  2. Witch agents everywhere
  3. Mayor is secretly a werewolf
  4. Wolf's Kiss Inn has the Sash
  5. Pie cures hangover (false, 50/50 pie contains alcohol)
  6. Drunk Dog Gang trying to cut down tree-house villages, make us all live on the ground
  7. Franklin Shipments brings in gloomy monsters
  8. Whoever gets the Sash becomes Mayor for a night

I need to learn how to lay this out as a pamphlet

Monday, May 6, 2019

20 More Curses for Bad Frog Bargain

I like the curses from Bad Frog Bargain, but wanted something a little less tentacle-arm and a little more 'I just gave you a weird tool to try to use well.' I suppose that's what tentacle arms are as well, but, hey. Also some of these are merely bad. 'Curses.' It's in the name y'all. Here this is as a PDF

  1. Any social interaction must be intimidation first. You cackle like a foul villain.
  2. Gamble compulsively (disadvantage to ignore)
  3. Smoke constantly
  4. Plant cigarette trees everywhere
  5. Hyper drunk (maybe advantageous for melee)
  6. Rubber bones. Disadvantage to melee attacks, advantage to melee defense.
  7. Made of stone - can still move, just very slow, very heavy.
  8. Speak in pig latin - disadvantage for rest of scene if you violate this. Some NPCs insist they do not understand pig latin because they do not like pig folks.
  9. Dance constantly - movement is slower. 
  10. Adopt persona of 1) Pirate 2) thief-taker 3) noble 4) priest 5) artisan 6) gong farmer
  11. Drink every potion possible
  12. Random spell cast per scene, use knave spell list or your own. You still have to roll to cast to see if things go well or not.
  13. Carry and play a gramaphone at all times, requires at least one hand, two to crank it. It stops playing on a 1-2 on a d6 per round of combat.
  14. You turn into your own grandparent.
  15. Belt to snake, slithers away. You must hold up your pants or become Embarrassed. 
  16. Flock of loud, boisterous birds follows you everywhere, eating vociferously, pooping everywhere in garish colors.
  17. Everyone around you wants to party or mosh, depending on the encounter.
  18. Tiny raincloud follows you everywhere, will ruin any books you carry if they're, for instance, in your hand. Get someone else to carry a torch.
  19. An angry, loud eagle is now your hat. It is attached to your skin.
  20. Plants burst from ground and entangle you if you stop for more than 1 round. Act as armor but slow you down. 

Forest Hymn and Picnic: Whimsy, OSR, and Scenarios For Silly Times

Charles Darwin's kids' doodles 1
When I read the playtest docs for Forest Hymn and Picnic, I knew I needed to run it and find some material for it. The level-0 character creation is fun as anything - you could be a duck in a suit just looking to retire, a ghost possessing a scarecrow body full of angry attack chickens, or a person delivered by a drunken stork to a pack of wolves (who raised you properly). Cecil, the author, has some random character generators for the 3 class/races: Persons, Ghosts, and Animal Folk.

The system is set up to make dying relatively hard, compared to what I'd expect of Shadow of the Demon Lord and OSR-adjacent games. You go unconscious at the equivalent of 0 HP and that's it, there's no 'oh you got to -3 HP? you're dead' rules. Someone could coup de grace you but you're more likely to end up in hotter water. I imagine all the flintlock pistols are actually loaded with acorns and pecans, so that a good shot will knock someone out without killing them. 

Enemies can be fought, tricked, cajoled, or enticed to gamble, and the stats that represent them let the GM easily figure out a mechanism for this. Reminds me a lot of Knave, which was inspired at least in part by SotDL (And though SotDL predates Knave, I read Knave first and most). A monster's intellect or resolve basically gives a mental AC the players need to roll over to cajole them, anger them, or intimidate them. The PC's Int or Resolve, minus 10, is their modifier on a d20 roll. Stats are not randomly generated, but set based on your class/race and then changed by your background, which is rolled randomly. So you won't start out with a huge stat disparity between players, which in my experience is great for playing with younger folks (and plenty of not-younger folks too).

It's a less metal version of the OSR - nothing wrong with metal, but it's not what I listen to all the time. Sometimes you just want some goofy stuff to happen while playing the Cuphead soundtrack
Darwin's kids' doodles 2

So with this system in hand, I started looking for more whimsy in OSR scenarios and found things everywhere. From Ben Milton to Nate Treme to that crazy Blogs On Tape fellow Beloch Shrike, who wrote a Wiener Dog Dungeon! Milton's recent work was Witch and Wolf, a dungeon crawl with a strong Oz vibe. (He is also working on an RPG based on Labyrinth, which is open for preorder and looks quite great.)

The scenario I'm actually running is Nate Treme's Bad Frog Bargain, which is short, understandable, and yet has enough depth for the first couple of sessions with folks. It is not a dungeon crawl, but a towncrawl with very similar ideas - random encounters and events. There are suspicious superstitious guards, fairy-elf infiltrators, and a rain of curses. Two factions vie for the PCs to tip the scales their way. 

I decided that Frog Town is a potion-making powerhouse, so I had an excuse to use Wampus County's d100 potions table. Wampus County is a treature-trove of adjacent ideas to what is in Forest Hymn and Picnic - it's more modern and more frontiers, American Western feeling, but otherwise has a very similar vibe thanks to things like life Getting Worse via fairy-tale intervention. One doesn't die, one wakes up in a Giant Lightening Eagle nest where the hungry birds are hatching, in a torrential storm. 

Anyway, so far it's been great to see whimsical OSR scenarios, settings, and rules. After being immersed in weird horror for a long time, it's like a breath of fresh air to head towards an explicitly silly side of things. Where consequences are serious but not typically final, and monstrous NPCs can probably be talked into a game of competitive marbles to let you pass over their toll-bridge.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Harvesting the system from City of the Crepuscular Queen

I'm interested in systems that resolve combat in a less granular or faster way than, say, 5th edition DnD, but still give a sort of DnD feeling. I think gg no re's City of the Crepuscular Queen does this quite well - the system in it, I mean. It's very similar to Dungeon Squad or In the Light of a Ghost Star, though the way HP works is very different, and combat resolution can be a lot faster. Admittedly one can speed up combat the way those systems do - just give everyone few HP and let damage be fairly normal, and combat will be fast! But I am nothing if not a magpie for systems. Here is what I have harvested from the mind of the fellow who made the system, Daniel from Detect Magic.

General resolution - you roll a d4, d6, d8, d10, or a d12, and you want to roll 4 or more to succeed. You never modify the roll. If you would normally roll a d8 and have an advantage, you roll a d10 or d12.
You roll a d8 if what you're doing is related to your class/profession. You roll a d6 if, say, you're a rogue in a stand-up fight, or the wizard trying to sneak around. You roll a d4 if you have really bad odds - maybe the wizard sneaking through a brightly-lit prison. You roll a d10 or higher if you have special equipment, lots of time / little stress, if you're a fighter and other fighters are helping you, etc. Wizards roll to cast their spells, rogues roll to sneak (if sneaking is actually dangerous in the situation).
You have 9 'hit points,' which I call save points, because they're not like HP. If you fail a roll, generally you lose 1 save point and you start rolling the die you just rolled, and you keep losing save points until you roll a 4 or higher. So, a fighter fighting, you rolled a d8 and got a 2. You lose 1 hp, and re-roll the d8. You keep losing 1 hp at a time until you roll a 4 or more. This means dangerous things can take you out - if you're fighting, you got hurt or killed, if you cast a spell, it ate up your health and you had a magical mishap, if you were sneaking, you got ambushed and attacked.
However, if you succeed, you will take out lesser foes or do serious damage to greater foes. You don't roll once per attack, the system is closer to rolling once per major part of the combat - taking out a lesser foe if they're in a group, lopping off some part of the big monster, casting a spell to demoralize a bunch of enemies and have them flee, killing the low-level solo critter and winning. There's no 'lose 4 HP out of 35, next round' moment.
Armor would give you some extra save points in a fight, good weapons can help you fight better, and so on. Encumbrance is a list of up to 20 things you bear, and if you get into a chase, you need to roll a d20 over the number of things you have to get away. I would give strong-ass fighters (ie any fighter in this system) a +3 to that roll. 

It's definitely possible to roll and not lose save points - say, if you lie to someone, you don't immediately lose save points. But the situation should change for the dramatically worse.

Also the CCQ episodes have ideas of Moments, where you narrate a slice-of-life bit of what's going on during a rest, or you reveal things about your character's past, or relieve a burden. A burden is something that drives your character. Relieving one has no mechanical benefit but it's something that they're trying to do. The idea with these is there's no mechanical reward or 'evaluate other people's role playing', thank God, but it's just something baked into the system that one does, in order to flesh out one's character more. 

I made a very simple character sheet for this system and am going to give it a go with some folks soon.

May wind up doing more of the Dungeon Squad warrior/rogue/wizard stats and use these rules for advantage / disadvantage, focus on how CCQ's system runs combat - which I think Daniel expounded on more in Simple Fights

Monday, April 22, 2019

Researcher Topics-of-Study for The Stygian Library

I'm going to run some friends through Emmy Allen's awesome Stygian Library. They'll all be fighters or wizards or explorers/rogues but will also have a topic of study. The setting is an anachronistic mish-mash of things, ruled over by an Overlord, who has made life so staid and regular that the only way to get ahead is to explore the places where reality has broken down and some Other world has intruded. Anyway, here's the list of topics.

  1. Astrophysics
  2. Golden Barge construction theory
  3. Literature
  4. Theology, Confirmed
  5. Approved History
  6. Biology
  7. Necromatic Symbolism
  8. Magic Theory
  9. Metallurgy
  10. Architecture
  11. Poetry
  12. Crank conspiracy theories
  13. Secret anti-Overlord activism
  14. Ley Line tracer
  15. Mutation Theorist
  16. Mechanical Engineering Philosopher
  17. Psi Theorist
  18. Dreams
  19. Divination
  20. Post Structuralist Analysis of Television Shows
  21. Dragonography
  22. Mechanical Dopplegangers
  23. Mirror Universes
  24. String Theory
  25. Dance
  26. Music
  27. Cinema
  28. Chemistry
  29. Library Sciences
  30. Ghost Analytics
System will probably be a lot like In the Light of a Ghost Star and cribbed notes from gg no re's City of the Crepuscular Queen. That system is neat, in that you have a DC of 4 for every roll and you go up and down the dice chain based on your profession and how hard things are. A fighter rolls a d8 to fight, a wizard rolls a d8 to cast. A rogue rolls a d8 to sneak and a d6 to have a stand-up fight; a wizard probably rolls a d4 to melee people. Chases are rolling a d20 over the number of items you're carrying. Telling really bad lies to someone may be a d4 to succeed (at best), whereas doing something for your profession that you have a lot of time to set up might give you a d10 or a d12 to roll.

Most everyone will roll a d8 for their research topic as well, though the idea is that a fighter with Magic Studies as their research isn't a better wizard than the wizard. It would probably be that they could roll a d8 to know things about magic, do research on it, but they don't have much of the knack themselves. Likewise a martial arts-studying wizard is not going to have fun in melee, but they might be able to roll a d8 to detect and call out weaknesses to the fighter and give them an advantage.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Reality is Breaking Down Actual Play

I ran the Shift RPG for my niece and nephew a bit ago and had good fun. I made some modifications to it, as they had never seen some of the touchstone media for that game - no Inception, no The Matrix. They played smugglers just trying to retrieve and move a MacGuffin from one sector of The City to another.
The City, Subway Map
It was good fun, the game is set up such that the players describe a plan and try to roll under the 2 most relevant stats. When reality changes, the characters change - stats change for sure, and the players got to decide if they'd create new alter egos or not. We went from a dirty cop detective and faux student to a martial artist and a Flat Earther conspiracy theorist. The Flat Earther rolled well on a reality shift and, using the excellent Fractured Reality table from Cavegirl's Gaming Blog, made the world actually flat, and became a Round-Earth Conspiracy Theorist. The niece immediately tried (and succeeded) in shifting reality to make this Not The Case, because Flat Earth is a bad conspiracy theory.

I learned about Raw Water - an actual thing, people believing that it's 'better' to have unpurified water - because of course my nephew is awesome and knows about crazy beliefs.

The game system wants each player to think of regrets / mistakes and have those manifest in the world at times, cause problems, give the PC more insight into the shifting nature of reality. I gave the players a d12 (?) list of potential problems they could summon forth, but for the most of it they relied on me having weird stuff in the world, and I was happy to slowly ramp things up from a triffid apocalypse setting, through eco-collapsing archival worlds, to a Squid People Police State where mind-controlled prison labor kept things going. 

They did summon up a swarm of locusts to eat triffid-apocalypse pod people though. That was great. And the dirty cop detective got the feeling that everyone, herself included, was a pod person. And there were pod people after they reality shifted away from that stuff, because pod people are fantastic.

d12 antagonistic incursions caused by Your Issues
  1. Bull
  2. Train
  3. Bear
  4. Locusts
  5. Rival dreamer
  6. Former friend
  7. Huge market crash
  8. Tidal wave
  9. Weird eclipse
  10. Secret police agent
  11. Kaiju
  12. Vampire
They got captured by squid-people police looking for the MacGuffin. They awoke in a small security zepplin, broke free of their bonds, and used a machine gun to force the pilot and copilot to ditch. Then when encountering security balloons, they tried to fake their own deaths/crash but smashed into the security balloon, whose Squid Person overseer jumped into their zeppelin and fought them. Good stuff. 

The game system encourages players to 'solve' what's going on, but my players where happy to be professional smugglers, get the goods delivered. They did have great theories - the conspiracy theorist thought everything was happening on a big sound stage, all as fake as the moon landing. The detective / martial artist figured the world was like a smartphone that had been dropped in water and was glitching out, an amazing and dark analogy. 

Overall, a very fun one-shot with very little prep on my end. Edit: Probably the only thing I'd change was using that pointcrawl map as a subway map - if I want players to get out and explore or have encounters in each district, I shouldn't give them a big easy 'stay on the train' option, or should have thought of reasons to get off the train, or train encounters. But given this was a one-shot we barely had enough time for, I think what I did was for the best.